Do not ask me why, but in practice I still frequently encounter clients who become anxious at the notion of ‘airtight construction.’ Just recently, for example, as a consultant in a design team for a new school I suggested – in line with the Trias Energetica – that the building be constructed as airtight as possible. The response I got was that the school director had demanded that ‘it must be possible to open the windows, and thus he would prefer not to have an airtight building.’
What flashed through my mind was all the years we have been working to explain and promote the concept of ‘airtight Construction’ and the recent internal discussion about whether or not there is currently an overkill of attention for airtight construction. By now the market certainly knows what it is? Apparently we still have a long way to go, particularly when it comes to communication with the end user, and that will remain so as long as airtight construction is still regularly associated with a ‘sealed plastic bag, closed off from all fresh air.’
So it is once again that I find myself making my plea for and providing an explanation of the concept of airtight construction. As so often in the staunchly traditional world of construction, I am again reminded of the comparison with the modern and rapidly developing automotive industry. I imagine that same school director arriving at a car dealership where he says to the salesman: ‘Please leave some gaps here and there, otherwise I won't get any fresh air while driving!’ In my mind's eye I see a group of engineers at a particular Japanese automaker looking up in surprise: Is this the thanks they get for perfecting their production techniques, inventing the LEAN concept, and making quality job number 1!? Will the end customer now force them to leave gaps in the body because he is afraid there will be no fresh air? Was that problem not solved years ago with the invention of air conditioning? Goodbye aerodynamics and low fuel consumption... adieu water-tightness... hello engine noise!
And why is this comparison with the auto industry, even now, in 2014, still so apropos? Because the reasons for airtight construction are actually the same as in the automotive industry: achieving a waterproof building, comfort, energy efficiency, low noise from outside, and so on. In short, airtight construction is not scary – it is nothing other than a basic principle required to achieve quality in a building (or car).
Therefore I beseech you: Airtight construction should simply be standard practice, at least if you want to create a quality building. Thermal insulation, waterproofing, fire safety, sound-proofing – these aims cannot be achieved without an airtight construction. Of course, a window can still be opened if you want to. But if you want to keep them closed in the middle of winter or on a hot summer day, that is fine too. There is still always the quiet (sensor-controlled) ventilation system that provides you with fresh outside air.
Want to know more about how to build airtight? Why not jump in with both feet? You will have the opportunity at the hands-on workshop Airtight Construction on 6 November in Ede.